Terri's Cellar Door

Stuff that happens to me, Terri.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I had a Dream I Could Buy My Way to Heaven, When I Awoke I Spent that On A Necklace...

So, apparently I hate the Jonas Brothers. It's just that they can't sing. I mean, you can sing whatever you want, pop, emo, death metal, but if you have a good singing voice, there's no problem. But these kids (men, in some cases), have terrible singing voices. Like, they're whiny and they have no right to be. Anyway, this post isn't about that, though, it very well could be. I'm posting that story that I told you about twenty years ago. I would have done the Get Smart review, but I feel like I missed the boat on that one. And then there's this Batman review I was going to do, but I lost the steam I had saved up for that one. So here's the story:

He Sees the Ghost Pt. 1

Jacob closed the wooden door silently behind him. He quickly took of his gloves and rubbed his hands together to fight off the morning chill. He walked over to the open fireplace and opened his hands in front of the blaze, letting it do the warming for him. It was not quite dawn and yet Jacob had almost finished his morning routine: letting out the dogs, checking the lobster traps, and walking the pier to see what the night’s waves had brought onto the shore. There was nothing there but a few pieces of trash, but Jacob had brought them along anyway, dumping them beside the door has he hurried to get in out of the crisp, morning air. It wouldn’t be long before the dogs started pawing at the door to be let in as well, so with a grimace he moved away from the fire and took off his heavy woolen coat, hat, and scarf. As he tossed them onto the chair he looked lovingly at his initials sewn into the fabric. JS. He turned and began to gut some fish to go with the morning’s breakfast.

Soon, everything was done. There was fish and grits, juice, and coffee set at the table. Jacob had even gotten the scraps and sprinkled them over the dog’s breakfasts as well, something he never forgot to do. Jacob always had fish for breakfast because there was always fish. Jacob’s family had lived in that same house for generations, living off the sea. As a slave in the south, Jacob’s great-great grandfather had yearned for freedom, and found it sailing the seas of the northeast. Then, when he returned home, he built that house, on land bought with his own money, gainfully earned. Jacob was proud of his grandfather, and equally proud of his great-great grandmother, who raised ten children in that tiny house, and then helped raise 45 grandchildren. Over 60 kids had been raised in that house, at one point or another, but they had all moved away, one by one, until there was only Jacob left. His parents had never lived in the house, and as soon as his father was old enough he had gone to the big city, Granger, which was 100 miles away. His father moved to Granger, and made a life for himself. It was a life that included being the first black neurosurgeon in the city, and marrying Jacob’s marching, protesting, social activist mother, and a life that did not include fish. Jacob was attending sit-ins when he was eight years old. He knew more about Nelson Mandela than about clams, and more about the Montgomery bus boycotts than oysters. He had been soft, supple, and too smart for his own good. But that was all a long time ago. Before he had moved in with his grandparents. Before he had spent day after day pulling in nets and cages, and getting the calluses and muscles that came with living off of the sea. Before things had gone wrong. Now he was a fisherman, plain and simple. He liked it that way; simple. He stood up slowly as he heard the scratching of paws at the door. But he heard something else, as well. It was a song he used to love, a song he used to hear everyday. But before he could place it, it was gone, and he shook himself from his memory and opened the door. The fog that wrapped it’s ghostly tendrils around the harbor was quickly seeking refuge as the sun rose higher and higher. But, as Jacob looked across the water, very quickly, he thought he saw something new in the mist.

He still set two places at the dining table. It was the same reason that he still brewed up a pot of coffee, and the same reason that he still brought in the worthless trash from the beach every day. It’s not as if he thought she was going to walk through the door like she always did after her morning jog. Her hands full of paints and tools, a smile on her mocha face, panting, and happy to see him. It was not as though he expected that. The neighbors would shake their heads sadly as they peeked in on him and asked if he needed anything. Milk? They would ask. No thanks, was the ready answer. Mending? No, I’m fine. Again, as polite as ever. Time? Company? Oh, no, my work keeps me plenty busy, and besides, I don’t want to be a bother. Jacob didn’t see any reason to burden them. And he had always felt that personal stuff was personal stuff, and public stuff was public stuff; there was no getting the two all mixed up. So the neighbors would just click their teeth and keep moving on. It used to be such a happy home, one would say to another. So full of life. Well, who can blame him, the other would say, still moving away, after what he’s been through? He’d lost so much, the man just needed some time to sort things out. Jacob would ignore them all. He was content enough, living the way he did, and it didn’t matter much, anyway; he was just waiting.

In the winter the fog didn’t so much disappear as wait. It seemed to skulk about the little island on the middle of the water like a lion stalking its prey. Jacob came around the island as he did every morning, piloting his little boat expertly across the silent water. Most fishermen from his town worked farther out in the open water. They took big boats and caught even bigger lobsters and sold them and made thousands. But Jacob had fished the same spot that his grandfather fished, and the same spot that his grandfather fished before him. It was a little cove that always had the tastiest cod, and the most delicious clam. He was able to sell the fish he caught at the market everyday. His were certainly in demand, even the big time fishermen came to him to feed their own families. He dropped the fish off at the stall with Sarah mid morning, and by afternoon he could pick up the money. He could then go and spend the rest of the evening how he pleased, which was usually sitting inside, playing his harmonica. This afternoon, though, he decided to take the dogs and go sailing around the cove. So, he had packed a lunch, and headed out among the craggy surf. He went out into the bay, around the little island, and was heading back when the dogs began to whine. They began to paw at the side of the boat and look desperately to the shore of the little island. Jacob couldn’t see anything, but he knew that his dogs wouldn’t get so worked up over nothing. He turned the boat towards the island, careful to avoid the rocks that he knew were there, but could certainly not see because of the fog. He was close to the shore when Gideon, his small lab jumped out of the boat and into the water. He shouted for her, but hearing nothing but her sure paddling in the water never felt more helpless. Suddenly the paddling stopped, and Jacob began taking off his clothes, layer by layer as he contemplated jumping into the freezing water. Suddenly, breaking through the haze was a small rowboat. Jacob breathed a sigh of relief as he saw Gideon, with her tail wagging happily, standing with her two front paws on the bow, and an elderly black man huffing and puffing behind her. Is this your dog? Jacob helped the man onto the boat and offered him a sandwich out of his pack. The man’s hands were cold like ice, but it was a chilly day, and without his gloves, Jacob is sure his hands would have felt the same. Jacob had never seen Gideon jump out of the boat that way, and told the man as much. The old man said nothing in return and gnawed on his sandwich. The two sat in companionable silence, taking in the sea air, talking about the weather, and the fishing, and their hauls. The old man introduced himself as Saul, he lived not too far up the coast, and was just passing through, looking for a good fishing spot. They talked for what seemed a long while, and before he knew it Saul had pulled out a pocketwatch and started to check the time. Jacob felt the warm sting of the familiar and asked Saul if he could take a look at it. Without a word, the old man handed the watch over. It was old, looked very old, Jacob could see that, but the craftsmanship was solid. There was a beautiful engraving of a sail boat on the front, and when Jacob pushed open the clasp, it even played a jaunty sea tune. Recognition struck him. He’d heard that song before, but where? Before Jacob could even speak his question aloud, Saul grabbed the watch, clamped it shut, and began making his way back to his little rowboat. Jacob tried to convince the old man that taking him up the coast wouldn’t be a struggle. He didn’t like the idea of Saul traveling up the murky water as the sun set to his back, and the fog rushed into the harbor. But Saul would have none of it. He climbed aboard his little boat, with no help from Jacob, and pushed off. With a wave he seemed to be swallowed by the haze, and quickly vanished out of sight. Jacob stood watching the spot where Saul had disappeared for some time. He couldn’t shake the feeling that the old man had left in him. But he could see the sun getting lower in the sky, and knew that it was way past time for him to be heading back to shore. He pulled anchor and turned the boat away from the cold island and to the bright light of the town.


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